Investing in another life is a gift that keep on giving

A phrase one hears this time of year is about gifts that “keep on giving.” Most store-bought gifts are soon forgotten, but are there some gifts with timeless value?

I suspect most people want their lives to matter, especially to others. Is that achieved by personal success, prosperity, and the acquisition of “stuff” that wears out, is discarded, or if it has value, is sold at an estate sale after one passes away?

Some gifts of timeless value have been suggested to me by World Vision, a Christian-based organization that is also inclusive and humanitarian when it comes to people of all faiths, or of no faith. One posting on their website says: “This Christmas, you can empower a child and their community to break free from poverty, for good.” This refers to their child sponsorship program, which has succeeded in lifting children, even adults, out of poverty, not sustaining them in it as many welfare programs often do.

Investing in another life and knowing you have made it better is a gift without an expiration date.

World Vision partners with the Department of Agriculture in a Food Box distribution program. During the pandemic, many restaurants are closed, or have limited service. Many farmers have nowhere to ship their food. The Agriculture Department connects farmers who grow crops with specific vendors who distribute them, ensuring the food goes to nonprofits that assist vulnerable people.

During winter, most people don’t think about warm clothing because they have coats, sweaters and shoes. Many others, especially in poorer regions, do not.

That brings me to World Vision’s cold weather clothing program. From their site: “‘My children say to me that they are cold, but what can I do? I want to warm them with my soul, but that’s not enough. My soul cannot warm them,’” says Dylbere, a struggling Albanian mother.

The post continues: “When families get the helping hand of cold-weather clothing donations, they’re able to stretch their small income to better meet their family’s needs — warming both body and soul. Far beyond physical warmth, the gift of a coat or boots radiates outward and helps make children a little less vulnerable.”

Conservatives often view California, and especially Los Angeles, as economic and political failures. There are an estimated 60,000 Los Angelenos who are homeless and living on the streets. Politics should not factor into helping fellow human beings.

World Vision says these homeless people “… lack access to basic sanitation — toilets and showers — and even clean water. In a city where the sun beats down relentlessly, hygiene is a challenge, especially with COVID-19 closing businesses and public spaces like libraries where those without homes could normally find bathrooms.”

Enter The Shower of Hope: “It’s set up seven showers in the parking lot of Hollywood’s Adventist Church (now closed for indoor worship due to the coronavirus) — one of 25 locations where The Shower of Hope operates. Tuesday through Friday, homeless people arrive, often carrying their possessions in a backpack slung over a shoulder, to take showers. ‘It’s a very interesting system,’ says John Schroer of Adventist Health.

“‘Sixty to 70 percent of the people utilizing the showers are unhoused, living in their cars, but still working,’ says Mr. Schroer. ‘They need to be presentable and respectable for work, but they don’t have homes. … A lot of them are concerned about letting their employers know they live in their cars. … They are afraid of being fired.’”

See more opportunities to improve the lives of others at Worldvision.org.

Sure, exchange gifts you bought in stores or online, but also consider transforming another life for the better. As Christians celebrate God’s ultimate gift to humankind, should we not be grateful enough to pass it on to others, warming their bodies and souls and giving them hope?

• Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist, is the author of “America’s Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires, Superpowers and the United States” (HarperCollins/Zondervan, January 2020).

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